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The Blunderer Paperback – November 17, 2001

24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Published in 1954 and 1985, respectively, this duo offer more of Highsmith's signature characters in plots where fairly ordinary people perform extraordinary acts of brutality. The Blunderer finds protagonist Walter Stackhouse, who fantasizes about knocking off his wife, in hot water with the cops after the Mrs. ends up at the bottom of a cliff. When Richard Alderman becomes a born-again Christian in People Who Knock on Doors, his family is shattered, leading to a violent outcome.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Almost unputdownable. Miss Highsmith writes about men like a spider writing about flies. The Observer Highsmith's novels are peerlessly disturbing ...bad dreams that keep us thrashing for the rest of the night The New Yorker One of the greatest modernist writers Gore Vidal My suspicion is that when the dust has settled and when the chronicle of 20th-century American literature comes to be written, history will place Highsmith at the top of the pyramid, as we should place Dostoevsky at the top of the Russian hierarchy of novelists -- A.N Wilson Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (November 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) was the author of more than twenty novels, including Strangers on a Train, The Price of Salt and The Talented Mr. Ripley, as well as numerous short stories.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By lazza on March 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
After reading 'Strangers on a Train', which I thought was utterly superb, I was generally disappointed in Highsmith's later works. While at worst enjoyable, these later works lacked the psychological tension of her first book (which was turned into a Hitchcock film). Fortunately, I discovered the (now) little-known 'The Blunderer', Highsmith's second mystery novel (after 'Strangers on a Train' and before 'The Talented Mr Ripley'). It is equal to the best she has ever done.
Like 'Strangers on a Train', 'The Blunderer' is the study of two accused criminals and how they cope with each other while being hounded by an aggressive police detective. As guilt and suspicion build with each page the reader is really dropped into the deep end of endless anxiety and self-doubt. I found myself completely absorbed, especially during the last half of the novel. It is such a joy to read a novel that is crisp, economical and written in a seemingly effortless style.
Bottom line: 'The Blunderer' is a must read. Hopefully it will be reprinted so that Highsmith junkies (like me) can readily find it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ann Ueda on December 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
For Highsmith fans, The Blunderer has just been re-released in a new series put out by Norton press. (Norton is also planning to re-release other Highsmith books for which they have publishing rights.)
My review of the book isn't as positive as those by others who have written before me, but I think this is because I read, just before The Blunderer, The Cry of The Owl, which is similar in plotline but far better written and without the unnecessarily violent ending found in The Blunderer. (Highsmith wrote The Blunderer in 1954 and The Cry of The Owl in 1962; my guess is that in the intervening years Highsmith had time to improve on the plotline.)
Still, The Blunderer is a good read. Highsmith did a great job of showing how two people's lives can suddenly intwine in ways neither individual would ever conceive of if not in the middle of Highsmith's weird, twisted, amoral universe. Highsmith also continues her close-up examination of our inner obsessions that, on occasion, can creep to the surface and wind up completely derailing life as we knew it before.
I recommend The Blunderer for readers who are well familiar with Highsmith's works beyond the well-known Mr. Ripley series. Gain appreciation of Highsmith's "high notes" before taking a look at her earlier works which foreshadow the mystery writer genius of future years.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By James on December 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a superbly crafted novel. It gets under your skin, and like a test for allergies, it makes you aware of sensitivities you never knew you had. I couldn't put it down, I often laughed out loud, and was haunted. She makes an improbable situation most probable. In another writer's hand this could've been dreadful. How did she do it? I am not sure. But that is the magic of Highsmith, and she spins her spell wonderfully in this masterpiece. It has an existential power, a nightmarish texture, and the bite of the best dark comedy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joseph W. Smith III on March 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Currently out of print, this early thriller by Patricia Highsmith bears many of her trademarks: page-turning suspense, unbelievably cruel and sordid characters, the "doppelganger" motif (as in "Strangers on a Train"), the famous "transference of guilt" that fascinated Hitchcock, and an overpowering sense of hopelessness (at times I felt like I was reading an American version of Camus's "The Stranger"). Added here is a theme of lying that twists and turns its way through the plot until "the tangled web" is so thick that there is simply no way out.
The story concerns two unhappy marriages -- one that ends in murder, and another that seems headed in the same direction. Like so many other Highsmith books, it features a pair of not-too-admirable protagonists, one who is truly guilty and another who only seems to be -- or is he really? How much do intention and motivation count toward making a man guilty of murder? This is one of Highsmith's favorite themes, and it's played out here in its most radical and shattering incarnation.
In the end, I think you'll find the book is about a man who is not so much a blunderer as he is virtually driven to possible madness and genuine guilt by the constant doubt and suspicion of everyone he knows -- including himself.
In typical Highsmith fashion, this is a book nearly impossible to put down, yet dizzying in its psychological implications. I've said before that reading Highsmith is like falling down a well -- it's dark and terrifying, and there's no way to stop. That's about what this book feels like.
Well worth finding, esp. for the die-hard Highsmith fan (like me).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By john lipton on October 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Writers hold up mirrors to uncharted mind landscapes. Patricia knows more about us than we might think we do. Her spelling skills are impeccable: the lady never loses her thread through man's intimate alphabet. Highsmith works her way from the bright spot of A to Z's darker shades. Two characters share the Blunderer's stage. As a reader it is expected we identify with innocence. And indeed who will doubt we're not the good guy, clumsy at times, but always meaning well. Yet the uncomfortable truth that extremes are drawn together is brought to us in a very skillful process. Could it be that clumsiness is a revealing sign of premeditation ? In us as on the page, character loses its pristine clarity. Conscience sets and the moonlit Blunderer's is aglow with a different light. Most of us will come out of the experience with some uneasy insights and may ponder that we are actually 'the other'.
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